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Namibia becomes first Southern African country to join UN Water Convention

Windhoek River Namibia

On 8 June 2023 Namibia became the first Southern African country, and 8th country in Africa, to accede to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (UN Water Convention).  

Namibia, which has a population of some 2.5 million people, shares all its perennial rivers with neighbouring countries as well as several significant transboundary groundwater reserves. As both a mid-stream and downstream country, transboundary water cooperation is crucial for Namibia and the region’s water security and sustainable socioeconomic development.  

Namibia’s Minister for Agriculture, Water and Land Reform, Mr. Calle Schlettwein stated “Transboundary water cooperation stands as the cornerstone of our nation's water security, and I firmly believe that through this accession, Namibia will not only reap substantial benefits from its participation in this global legal framework but will also have the opportunity to engage with fellow members in promoting the principles of peace and equity in transboundary water sharing. The principles and regulations of the Water Convention harmoniously align with Namibia's policies on transboundary water cooperation and integrated water resources management, as we collaborate alongside other nations to safeguard and sustainably utilize our shared freshwater resources”.

UNECE Executive Secretary, Ms. Olga Algayerova, stated: “I warmly congratulate Namibia on its accession to the UN Water Convention as called upon by the United Nations Secretary General to all UN Member States. As the first Party in Southern Africa, Namibia opens the door to more countries in the region joining this unique treaty to help address water challenges across national borders, which is especially crucial due to rising climate change impacts. After Nigeria and Iraq’s accession earlier this year, this shows the relevance of the Water Convention as key means for supporting sustainable development and preventing conflict over shared waters.” 

Namibia’s accession will help to consolidate the long-standing commitment to transboundary water cooperation in Southern Africa. 

Namibia has ratified basin agreements and is a member state of basin organizations including: the Okavango-Cubango River Commission (OKACOM) shared with Angola and Botswana; the Orange-Senqu River Commission (ORASECOM) shared with South Africa, Botswana and Lesotho); the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM) with all other riparian states of Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe; and the Cuvelai Watercourse Commission (CUVECOM) with Angola. At a regional level, Namibia is a party to the 2000 Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Revised Protocol on Shared Watercourses and to the 1997 UN Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (Watercourses Convention). 

Namibia is one of only two states in Africa to have all its transboundary freshwater bodies covered by operational management arrangements according to the national report submission for the 2nd monitoring exercise in 2020 of SDG Indicator 6.5.2, for which UNECE and UNESCO are co-custodian agencies. The third exercise is currently ongoing.

As an effective global legal and intergovernmental framework and platform for cooperation and sustainable management of shared waters, including groundwater, accession to the Water Convention can enable support by the community of Parties, experience-sharing with basins and countries worldwide, facilitate access to financing and raise the country profile at the international level on transboundary water. 

Namibia has just embarked on a two-year pilot Twinning Initiative with Finland, which is a party to the Convention, to exchange experiences, build capacity and strengthen bilateral cooperation on transboundary water management. It is the first Twinning of its kind between the two countries.  

Open to accession by all UN Member States since 1 March 2016, the Convention now counts 50 parties. At present, more than 20 countries around the world are in the accession processes, predominantly from across Africa and Latin America. 153 countries worldwide share rivers, lakes and groundwater resources. The UN Water Convention is serviced by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

Countries: Namibia

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